Retronauts: Which 16-Bit RPG Rerelease is Right For You?

Square Enix certainly doesn't do anything by halves. Hot on the heels of the zillionth remake of Final Fantasy IV (via the Complete Collection for PSP) have come news and rumors that the company will be reissuing the subsequent 16-bit Final Fantasy games along with spiritual counterpart Chrono Trigger on a host of services. According to leaked ESRB ratings, Final Fantasy V will be coming to PSN (whenever that starts working again) while Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger are slated for both PSN and Virtual Console.
The obvious question, then, is which version of these classics is worth owning? Or should you skip these reissues altogether in favor of previous releases? After all, the three Super NES Final Fantasy games were remade for Game Boy Advance a few years back, and you can still buy new copies of the DS remake of Chrono Trigger for less than $20. On top of that, the PSN releases are bound to be the PlayStation versions that showed up in Final Fantasy Anthology and Final Fantasy Chronicles -- versions that offered new CG animations and truly wretched loading times, among other issues.
So which are the definitive versions of these upcoming RPG reissues? Here's our take.
  • Final Fantasy V
    Our Pick: Final Fantasy V Advance (Game Boy Advance)
    FFV hasn't seen a lot of U.S. releases, since we didn't get the original 16-bit release back in the day. Your options (assuming you're in the U.S.) are the Anthology version and the Advance remake. Of the two, the Advance game is far and away the better version. Its text is more coherent, it adheres to proper series naming conventions, it has zero load time, and it even offers some extra end-game content for those who find superbosses Shinryuu and Omega too flimsy to offer real challenge. The only real defects in the Advance release are downgraded audio and a small amount of severe slowdown (specifically when the Forest of Moore bursts into flames).
  • Final Fantasy VI
    Our Pick: Final Fantasy VI Advance (Game Boy Advance) or Final Fantasy III (SNES)
    This one's a little more difficult. The original Super NES release of FFVI, which is slated for Virtual Console (eventually), has a lot of fans. It's the version with the most solid tech underpinnings -- no slowdown, no audio flaws -- and its unique glitches (e.g. the Vanish/Doom bug) are as much a part of its legacy as its charming script. The Advance version, on the other hand, trades in the original's punchy dialogue for a more expanded script that better explains the story. It also corrects spell and skill naming conventions to reflect the terminology of modern games. On top of that, it adds a handful of new Espers, a bonus dungeon, and even restores the infamously dummied-out Kaiser Dragon. The downside? The music doesn't sound quite right. Still, we'll recommend FFVI Advance over the FFIII version for newcomers; old-timers, however, may prefer to cling to the comfortable familiarity of the 1994 rendition.
  • Chrono Trigger
    Our Pick: Chrono Trigger (DS)
    Of the three American releases of Chrono Trigger to date, the DS game is definitely the winner. Some hardcore fans like to nitpick certain changes in the dialogue, but that's the nature of fandom; the DS game is a masterful remake that includes everything that was in the Super NES game and then some. The visuals and audio are spot-on (the remake was overseen by the game's original composer, the meticulous perfectionist Yasunori Mitsuda) and there are no omissions, only additions. Granted, not all of those additions are completely great, but they're also optional. For those who detest portable gaming, though, the Virtual Console release will be every bit as good. But whatever happens, don't pick up the PSN edition of the game unless you love distorted visuals and unbearable load times for every... single... action. The nature of PSN rereleases is not to improve on the source material, so there's no reason to expect the Chronicles iteration of Chrono Trigger to somehow work properly upon its digital release.
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